Sarah Flores is a freelance writer, editor, and online relationship advice columnist at SarahSideways.com. She writes articles for a number of online and print publications, and currently is writing her first young adult novel.
On her blog site she writes, “I’m a logophile, a dogophile, a public relations and advertising major, but most importantly, my 4th grade district spelling bee runner-up. (The unforgiving word was guard, in case you’re wondering.)”
Flores and her husband live in Texas with two four-legged goldendoodle girls, Butters and Peanut, and their first two-legged little girl, Makena.
Q. In one sentence tell readers who Sarah Flores is as a writer.
A. I like to write with honesty and relatability because regardless of what the old school rhyme says, words can hurt you, but they can also heal you.
Q. As a freelance writer and editor, what is your greatest hurdle in scheduling your time?
A. I work from home, and I take care of my baby while doing so, so setting a true work schedule has been tough. It’s not like working in a mostly distraction-free office from 9 am to 5 pm. It’s more like working with a constant (but sweet and perfect) distraction from 5 am to 6 pm.
Q. You wrote a moving and personal letter to your sister-in-law on your blog. Why thank her for this very private gift in such a public way?
A. I needed to make sure she received recognition for such a selfless and loving act. Also, I wanted to give hope to families experiencing similar struggles and let them know that there’s always another road to having a family. After following my story, two women told me that they now plan on becoming surrogates. How wonderful is that?
Q. The short, short stories are amazing especially the one about depression. Where does that depth of understanding come from?
A. This might sound strange, but I have a deep and empathic understanding of people. I’m able to sense and almost experience the emotions of people around me. It’s great for writing from different perspectives, but exhausting in real life when I’m around a bunch of people with mixed personalities.
Q. You write about being somewhat directionless as a young adult (pre-twenties); what defining event helped you refocus and become more intentional about your ambitions?
A. Surrounding myself with ambitious people who strived for success really helped me create a vision of what I wanted my future to look like. Once I gained confidence in myself, I was able to put one foot in front of the other and not look back.
Q. Did you always want to be a writer, or did the writing bug evolve over time?
A. I’ve had a love for words since I started reading the dictionary for fun when I was a little girl. I’ve always loved writing, but I don’t think I ever realized that a career in writing was a professional option, which is why I was one year away from becoming an accountant. When my husband told me to quit working jobs I was obviously so unhappy at and focus on the things I loved, writing was the first thing I drifted to.
Q. What is the most irritating question a person can ask you about writing, and why does it bother you?
A. I can’t say that I’ve ever been asked an irritating question about writing. Know what is irritating? Mosquitos. And hidden celery bits in my salads.
Q. If writing were a ladder, what rung are you on and where do you want to be?
A. I’m terribly afraid of heights, so I’m only halfway up the ladder, and that’s where I’ll stay until someone carries me down. I’ve written quite a bit, and I’ve had some things published, but I’ll feel like I’m closer to the top when I’ve finished and published my first book.
Q. Do you write from a plan, or does it spring like lightning from your brain?
A. That sounds painful. It depends on what I’m writing. I’m following an outline I’ve put together for my book, articles are mostly random ideas with a little research, but writing my advice column is like lava flowing from a volcano. My emotions sometimes run high when I respond to questions about situations I’ve experienced. I go to this place in my head where I relive the moment, good or bad.
Q. In what ways has writing changed your life?
A. Writing has always been something I’ve done, so I can’t say there was a life-changing moment, but as my words become more honest and personal, with them comes great self-discovery. I’ve learned deeper reasons behind why I did the (stupid) things I did, dated the people I did, or worked the jobs I did, all because I put pen to paper. Or, fingers to keyboard.
Q. I am intrigued by your work as a relationship advice columnist. How did you get into that and what appeals to you about it?
A. I’ve experienced a lot in my life. You name it, I probably have a scar or a medal. I’ve always been the first person to sit next to the lonely stranger and lend an ear, and I love it when we get to a point in the conversation when they feel comfortable enough to tell me things they wouldn’t tell their own mother. Or, in some instances, their spouse. My desire to help people has always been strong, and the internet has been a great platform for doing so.
A. Questions have been all over the place, but one question was particularly difficult about four years ago. A woman wrote to me about her cancer and how she probably wouldn’t be able to carry children. She wondered how she could move on and feel worthy of a relationship. I answered her question the best I could, and lo and behold, a few years later I had cancer and lost my ability to carry a child. I was so afraid to go back and read what I wrote her, but I did, and I’m still happy with the advice I gave. I realized then that I am good at helping people, even when I haven’t been in their shoes.
Q. As an editor, what is your pet peeve?
A. I was recently asked to do a basic edit for grammar and punctuation. When I returned the work with the necessary changes, they didn’t understand the changes because they don’t understand proper grammar. So, they stiffed me, but they still used my changes. Editing is a lot of work, and sometimes we’re expected to be mind readers digging through and making sense of nonsensical sentences. Also, “freelance” does not mean I work for free.
Q. You are active online. What is the most effective way to build readership/engagement?
A. That’s a tough one. Some days are better than others, and some posts are better than others. I’ve learned that absolute honesty resonates best with people. There’s so much superficiality online, and I think it’s a breath of fresh air when someone comes right out and says what needs to be said. I also connect with fellow writers on Twitter, and follow and comment on their blogs. Writers are usually very supportive of one another.
Q. Given that writing to communicate in this digital age is easier on the one hand, it is more competitive on the other. What is your #1 best advice to young writers starting out?
A. Start a blog, and start posting at least once or twice a week. Submit your articles to online directories and make sure they all lead back to a clear and informative landing page at your website. Start connecting now with fellow writers and authors. Also, remember that we all have a unique way of writing. Never change yours to mimic others’. Write the way you do, and work with it until you’ve perfected your style. Your unique writing style will keep readers coming back for more.
Q. You are working on your first young adult novel. How has this changed your writing schedule?
A. Yeah, writing a book changes everything. I’m taking on very few freelance jobs right now. Writing a book takes serious dedication not only to the telling and mental organization of the story, but to the time I have to set aside for it. Did I mention I have a six-month-old baby girl? I’m attempting to write the next New York Times bestseller in between changing poopy diapers.
Q. If you could have a week on your own to do nothing but what you wanted to do, what would you do and why?
A. Mom would babysit, and for one week my husband and I would hang out at a tiki hut on a white sand beach, sipping cocktails and playing poker. I should probably mention something about writing: I would write home about all the money I won playing poker.